Burlington County Times

Protesters Urge Runyan To Vote Against Health Care Repeal

Burlington County Times — Tuesday, January 5, 2010

By Dave Levinsky
Burlington County Times

MOUNT LAUREL — Rep. Jon Runyan was a vocal critic of the health care reform law last year while campaigning for Congress, and he's made no secret of his intention to support his party's repeal effort now that he's a member of the Republican's House majority.

But that didn't stop a group of about a dozen pro health care activists from his district from trying to change his mind in advance of today's expected repeal vote.

"We're here today to help Congressman Runyan start out on the right foot and vote in favor of his constituents," said Crystal Snedden, health care campaign coordinator with the nonprofit New Jersey Citizen Action, during a demonstration in front of Runyan's Church Road congressional office Tuesday afternoon.

Joining Snedden were members of pro health care reform groups South Jersey Grassroots4Change, New Jersey Main Street Alliance and New Jersey for Health Care, who braved the cold and a steady rain to urge the former pro football player to concentrate on issues such as creating jobs and boosting the economy rather than ending health care reform.

"Block the Repeal, Tackle Jobs" read one sign carried by a protester. Another declared: "We (Heart) Health Care."

The group also delivered a letter and spoke briefly with a Runyan aide about the issue.

"We're putting a lot of pressure on him. He's in a swing district, and we want to let him know there are constituents who support (health care reform) and push home that repeal will take away tax credits from small businesses and a lot of really good benefits that people are receiving now," said David Hopkins, a Willingboro resident and organizer with South Jersey Grassroots4Change.

Runyan, a Mount Laurel resident, represents the 3rd Congressional District, which is made up of large parts of Burlington and Ocean counties as well as Cherry Hill in Camden County.

Hopkins and most of the demonstrators turned out to similar events last year urging Runyan's predecessor, Democrat John Adler, to vote in favor of the reform package.

Adler voted against the measure, saying it was too expensive and did not do enough to control rising health care costs. The overhaul legislation narrowly passed in the House and Senate and was signed into law.

During his re-election campaign, Adler said that despite his no vote on the measure, he would not support repealing it. He was defeated by Runyan in November.

"Different guy, same cause," Willingboro resident Angie Stith said Tuesday outside Runyan's office. "It's sad, because there's all these other issues facing us, and yet (Republicans) are talking about changing something that's started and already benefits us."

Gary Johnson, also of Willingboro, spoke of the benefits the reform law provides senior citizens, such as expanded Medicare prescription benefits and coverage for preventive care.

"In hard economic times, that's a big help," Johnson said.

Other notable components include banning insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illnesses or from imposing limits on costs. The law also permits young adults to remain on their parents' policies until they turn 26, and allows uninsured and self-employed residents to purchase insurance through state-based exchanges with subsidies for the poor. Small businesses would be permitted to purchase plans through exchanges and receive tax credits for insuring employees.

More controversially, the law mandates that most residents obtain health insurance.

In addition to the demonstration, Willingboro pediatrician Odette Cohen met with Runyan in Washington on Tuesday to press him to vote against the repeal, claiming the reforms would help small businesses and extend coverage to millions without insurance.

Although Runyan listened to Cohen's concerns, he issued a statement indicating he remained steadfast in his support of the repeal.

"This week I plan on supporting the repeal of the 2010 health care law because I do not believe it is the best way to reduce the cost of medical care for all Americans while also maintaining the quality of care," Runyan said in the statement.

He went on to describe "cost-effective, common-sense reforms" such as boosting competition by permitting insurers to sell policies across state lines, approving tort reform, and permitting small businesses to pool together to purchase affordable plans. He does support the ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

"I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on accomplishing cost-effective reforms while maintaining high quality of care," Runyan said.

Don Adams, spokesman for the Independence Hall Tea Party, said his group was pleased with Runyan's position.

"We agree it's a job-killing measure and too costly, so we're very happy he's said he'll support the repeal bill," Adams said. "I think the majority of Americans are in our corner, including those in his district."

Top Top | NJCA Homepage | NJCA in the News